Sales Training Versus Mentoring/Industry Knowledge

Its a steamy summer Friday, I got home very late last night, so this morning’s Friday philosophy will be brief:

I keep reading about graduates trying to get into Wall Street training programs. I suspect most people do not understand what this means. A brief explanatory:

For the new rank and file hires at the major wire houses, this essentially amounts to a major sales training program. Its all about smiling and dialing, networking, becoming a great salesperson. Sure, there is some “product” training, but once we are talking about product the investor is screwed, a field of fees, waiting to be harvested. And so it is with the trainees, many of whom will fail out of the program, after generating reams of leads, prospects and new accounts for the brokers who are ostensibly training them (Wall Street Eats its Young). They are more cannon fodder than a human resource.

What I don’t see much of is a mentoring of the next generation of market professionals to become more than cogs in a giant sales organization. That what it is that they are selling are financial services is nearly irrelevant — other than the specific jargon they must learn to become better sales drones.

This is not the Street I grew up on. Mentoring seemed to be much bigger organizationally than I see today.

Fortunately, it has been replaced by a variety of other sources. Companies have moved much of their best research out from behind firewalls (its now considered “marketing” not sales prduct); Blogs from knowledgeable and experienced pros — hopefully you consider people like me and Josh in that category — as well as communities such as Stocktwits and Minyanville; there are also a countless number of enormously talented and generous people who share their knowledge over Twitter.

Still, I fear something is getting lost in the process. Our modern HFT driven financial industry at times seems bloodless. (I guess algos don’t need mentoring). The floor of the Exchange used to be a finishing school, watering holes were once educational seminars, and major conferences weren’t always media events –rather, they were places where people could learn and expand their knowledge base and skill sets and networks as opposed to being mere backdrops for 3 minute media hits.

This is on my mind in part due to the spate of articles on Wall Street hiring, recruiting, and training. That plus a rescheduled lunch with a friend who used to be the former head of a training program for one of the biggest Wall St iBanks HQ’d in NYC.

My own experiences were very different. I feel like I caught the tail end of a different era. I was mentored by a series of people over the years: First Bill Baker the head trader who trained me as a green newbie (and absorbed all of my initial losses); Guy Ortmann, who introduced me to technical analysis and had me take the TA course with Ralph Acampora; then a long list of people whose advice and counsel and examples helped me learn a great deal: Jeremy Grantham, Robert Shiller, Ned Davis, James Montier, David Kotok, Doug Kass, Art Cashin, Paul Desmond, Don Hays, Bill Black, Ed Easterling, Jim Cramer, Mebane Faber, Herb Greenberg, and on and on the list goes.

From these people I learned how to think about thinking, how to write and argue, how to present myself as a person. Some merely set examples; others literally tutored me.

All of which leads to me to one question: How are you being trained?


Advice to a Young Market Participant (March 5th, 2010)

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